How to speak fluent “cat:” Tips for communicating with our feline friends

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How to speak fluent “cat:” Tips for communicating with our feline friends

Updated Apr 5, 2024

Dear Cat Lovers,

When it comes to our beloved feline friends, it’s easy to underestimate just how much they have to say. While dogs might bark their thoughts loudly, cats often communicate in subtler ways that can leave us scratching our heads. But fear not! Here are some tips to help you become more fluent in speaking “cat.”

First and foremost, listen closely to the sounds your cat makes. Cats can be more vocal than dogs, but we humans aren’t always listening. Pay close attention to their meows and purrs – each one has its own meaning. Just like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, whose “I am Groot” speaks volumes, your cat’s meows can convey a lot of meaning. A short meow might be a hello, while a loud, drawn-out one could indicate distress – or simply that they are annoyed you haven’t fed them yet.  

Second, watch your cat’s body language. A cat’s tail, ears, and posture can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. A raised tail with a slight curve might mean contentment, while a twitching tail could signal excitement or agitation. And don’t forget when your cat presses their paws against you. This is called “kneading,” but colloquially it’s also called “making biscuits.” All you need to remember is that it’s a sign of affection.

Third, learn to speak your cat’s language. Cats show affection by narrowing their eyes and blinking slowly. Try returning the gesture – it’s their way of saying “I love you” in cat speak.

Fourth, respect your cat’s space. While it’s important to communicate with your cat, it’s equally important to respect their boundaries. Cats are independent creatures and may not always want to engage with people. Forced human interaction can cause stress, anxiety, fear, and even aggression. Many people tell me their cats scratched them while petting them, for example. Some cats get easily overstimulated and have petting-induced aggression. These are signs you need to stop petting them. Just like learning how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll, learn how many times you can stroke your cat before they react — and stop two pets short of that number. Make sure to give cats space when they need it and let them initiate contact on their terms.

Next, cats also benefit from mental stimulation. Most people don’t think about cats needing to play, but, just like people and dogs, they need it to stay physically and mentally healthy. Provide toys, scratching posts, and interactive games to keep their minds active. This can help strengthen your bond with your cat and prevent behavioral issues resulting from boredom.Finally, train your cat. Contrary to popular belief, cats can understand words – and can be taught in any language you speak. Train them to respond to their name, come when called, and even learn simple commands like “dinner” using clicker training techniques.

So, start listening, watching, and talking to your cat more often. You’ll be amazed at how much they have to say – and how rewarding it can be to truly understand your feline companions.

With over 35 years of experience advocating for animals in the field of animal welfare, Cathy Rosenthal is a seasoned expert dedicated to improving the lives of our furry friends. Explore her books and programs by visiting

Credit: Cathy M. Rosenthal, The Pet Pundit

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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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